Washington's College Football Playoff aspirations improved Sunday when the Huskies moved up one spot to No. 4 in the media and coaches polls, the school's highest ranking since the end of the 2000 season.
The polls don't matter in the grand scheme but it should be a representation -- because of Washington's 7-0 record -- of what the College Football Playoff committee will determine when its first rankings are released on Nov. 1. For what it's worth, ESPN continues to project the Huskies to play No. 1 Alabama in one national semifinal game on New Year's Eve.
A significant step in solidifying a top four ranking would be a quality against a tough opponent on the road. That opportunity is ahead for Washington (4-0 in the Pac-12) against No. 17 Utah (7-1, 4-1) on Saturday in Salt Lake City. Plenty of pomp and circumstance will surround the game with ESPN's popular "College GameDay" pregame show on campus for what could be a preview of the Pac-12 championship game in December.
"It would be a lot better if (GameDay) was home, but it would still be pretty exciting to be in that atmosphere," Washington receiver Dante Pettis told the Seattle Times. "I know they have a pretty good stadium. We haven't played there yet (Washington's last trip to Rice-Eccles Stadium was in 2011), but I heard it gets pretty crazy there. That would definitely be fun."
It's the first of two straight road games for the Huskies, who travel to play California on Nov. 5. The Huskies were installed as an early 11-point favorite against the Utes, who outscored UCLA 52-45 at the Rose Bowl on Saturday.
Washington is coming off its 10th consecutive victory, a 41-17 win over Oregon State at Husky Stadium last week.
"Every opponent, they're in our way of being great," Washington cornerback Sidney Jones said. "We have to take it one game at a time, one play at a time. Just come out, dominate every game so we can get to that championship."
A big reason for Washington's success, other than the nation's No. 1-rated passer, Jake Browning, is the Huskies remain No. 1 in the country with a plus-14 turnover margin -- five turnovers vs. 19 takeaways.
In a 34-23 loss to Utah last year, the Huskies had four turnovers, including a season-high three fumbles. Washington finished with a plus-5 turnover margin in 2015 -- with 22 turnovers and 27 takeaways.
The Huskies' offense has just four giveaways all season. It hasn't committed a turnover in its last three games. The last one came on Browning's interception at Arizona on Sept. 24.
PLAYERS TO WATCH
--QB Jake Browning, a sophomore, threw a pair of first half touchdowns against Oregon State last week to move into a tie with Brock Huard (1997) for third-most in Washington single-season history with 25. He added another in the third quarter to increase his total to 26 and pass Huard. Up next is Cody Pickett (2002) with 28. Keith Price (2011) holds the single-season record with 33.
--RB Myles Gaskin, a sophomore, finished with 128 yards rushing against the Beavers. It is the third time this season he has surpassed 100 yards rushing and the 11th time overall in his career. Gaskin also surpassed 2,000 career rushing yards, the 15th player in school history to reach that milestone. He has 2,029 yards in his career to rank 14th on the school's all-time list. Next up: Willie Hurst (2,334).
--WRs John Ross (115 yards receiving against Oregon State) and Dante Pettis (112) became the first pair of Husky receivers to go over 100 yards receiving in the same game since 2002 when Reggie Williams (116) and Patrick Reddick (105) accomplished the feat against California. Ross' 51-yard reception from Browning against the Beavers is the longest pass play of the season for the Huskies.
--CB Darren Gardenhire, a junior, had his third career interception and first of the season in Washington's game against Oregon State last week.
--LB Connor O'Brien had the only sack for Washington against the Beavers last week. He finished with 1.5 tackles for loss.